This morning I had a thought-provoking interview with Greg Fish, owner and writer for the superb website World of Weird Things. Greg wanted to get my insight to the world of commercial spaceflight and future colonization of other worlds, writing up a brilliant article called Colonizing Space, At A Profit based on my interview.
We examined the benefits mankind can reap from the exploration of space, but the responsibility of doing so is not exclusive to NASA or any other government-funded agency. The future of spaceflight rests in the hands of entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and primarily, businessmen. Manned exploration of the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt could open a new frontier of mineral exploitation, in turn opening a new era for mankind. It may be our best hope in the long-run to survive as a race.
We could be on the verge of a Solar System-wide “gold rush”, it just depends who will be the first to have the vision for such an endeavour.
“If you were the company to build the first colony on Mars, the planet is all yours for the taking,” – quote from Colonizing Space, At A Profit, on World of Weird Things
Thank you Greg for wanting to speak with me, and for preparing a very inspiring interview! Be sure to check out World of Weird Things, there are some very interesting articles and essays, delving into a huge array of topics, each written with a high degree of thought and intellect. A firm favourite on my reading list.
4 thoughts on “Interview with World of Weird Things: Colonizing Space, at a Profit”
I think you may have missed a couple of steps between tourism and mining the asteroids and planets. There must be a stage where the infrastructure to support deep space operations is established. This will include space habitats, power beaming stations, fuel depots, and ship yards at a minimum, just to get to the point where we can build ships designed to travel long distances and support humans for extended periods of time.
Then, once you have the capability to retrieve resources from extraterrestrial bodies, essential industrial capabilities would have to be established. Ore refinement and manufacturing of a few basic raw goods would likely remain part of the mining operation itself, since hauling a lot of unprocessed ore around the solar system could get very expensive. (Perhaps not so much if you could figure out a way to just fling the ore to its destination with only a modest amount of input energy.)
At each of these stages, there exists the potential for early providers to reap enormous profits. Unfortunately, each stage poses a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Someone must take the risk and step forward to provide some of these basic services before anyone else will bother building their systems/vehicles to take advantage of them.
While NASA could go along way towards supporting some of this initial activity, they currently has no plans to develop or make use of any infrastructure in cislunar space. NASA has, however, expressed an interest in utilizing such services if they were to become available. This is perhaps the most promising opportunity to boot-strap the in-space economy that is likely to come along any time soon.
I actually think there are many more steps between tourism and mining asteroids, and I suspect we’ll have different entities working on both independently rather than mining being a progressive step from space tourism. You’re right, there will be a complex infrastructure to build, and it’s going to be a slow process.
Probably the best example I can think of off the top of my head is the lunar landings. The reason why we are not carrying out routine trips to the Moon, even though we have the technology, is because each mission requires total support from the ground from start to finish. If we work on commercially backed infrastructure, as you suggest, the logistics of spaceflight will be simplified and therefore made cheaper.
Where NASA pushes the envelope, space commercialization needs to fill the void behind.
We only had time for a few topics in Greg’s interview, so I skipped over some of the detail to make sure I was able to get my mindset across 🙂
Thanks for stopping by 🙂